It happened during both games of the series with the Pirates. A Twins pitcher would get two strikes on a hitter but fail to put him away.
On Wednesday, Ervin Santana was ahead 0-2 on Starling Marte with two outs in the fifth, but Marte hit a single to right. Santana got ahead 1-2 on Andrew McCutchen, couldn’t put him away and gave up a two-run homer.
They were among many plays that hurt the Twins in their 10-4 loss Wednesday.
Twins manager Paul Molitor said Pittsburgh hitters were able to lay off Santana’s sliders just off the plate. But it’s reminding the Twins of a trend of failing to put away hitters who are down 0-2 or 1-2 in the count.
Opponents were batting .161 against Twins pitchers on an 0-2 count entering play Wednesday, which was 14th in baseball. But their 58 hits allowed on 0-2 pitches were eighth-highest and their seven home runs were second-most.
The Twins don’t have a staff of power arms; they have to execute their pitches. While some of the numbers might not look that bad, the Twins have seen enough hitters get off the hook against pitchers for Molitor and pitching coach Neil Allen to address it.
“It’s a concern,” Molitor said. “Neil had a talk with the staff about doing a better job when we are ahead, particularly 0-2. We saw a couple 0-2 hits [Tuesday] that preceded a big inning.”
For the most part, the Twins staff, particularly the rotation, has been effective this season. But it could be more productive.
“You’re not going to execute every pitch perfectly,” Molitor said. “Obviously, when you are ahead and have a little bit of an advantage you try to use it, but it is an imperfect thing.
“We’ve shown over the course of 100 games that we’re OK with how we pitch. When you start to lose, those things start to jump out at you a little.”
Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe left the team after Tuesday’s game to be with his wife, Olivia, for the birth of the couple’s first child. Players who leave on paternity leave can be away from the team for up to three days. The Twins weren’t sure how much time Plouffe will need.
To replace Plouffe on the roster, infielder Jorge Polanco was recalled from Class AAA Rochester, where he was batting .284 through 22 games. He began the season at Class AA Chattanooga, where he hit .301 in 67 games, but it was during that time he was called up to the Twins for a day, on June 10, when they were shorthanded.
Polanco is still trying to prove to the organization that he can stick as a shortstop. “His offense is ahead of his defense,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “But I think he’s getting better.”
This is why it’s important to keep searching for shortstop prospects. Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Brian Dozier all were shortstops who thrived at other positions. But if Polanco can prove he can handle shortstop, the Twins could have offense at a premium position.
“The bat plays up here,” Ryan said. “If you’re going to hit, we are going to find a spot for you.”
• Byron Buxton will take batting practice with the team before Thursday’s game, his first such involvement since he sprained his left thumb on June 24 against the White Sox. The Twins hope to send him to Fort Myers, Fla., for rehab work.
• Wolves rookie guard and Apple Valley product Tyus Jones will throw out the first pitch before Thursday’s game.
• Fox Sports North will now televise the Twins-Rangers game on Aug. 13 and the Twins-White Sox game on Sept. 3. Both are noon games that originally weren’t on the TV schedule.